It’s hard to imagine Miami Dolphins premier head coach and hustle king Jimmy Johnson passing up on an opportunity to lead the Dolphins into the annals of NFL history by becoming the league’s top-scoring team — ever — with 73 points flashing on the giant screen at Hard Rock Stadium.
We had the enviable record within our grasp Sunday, which has not been this seriously challenged since 1966 when Lyndon B. Johnson was president.
But head coach Michael McDaniel, a new breed of football coach, left it on the table, passing on the chance to, with a field goal, make it 73-20 against the Denver Broncos.
We think it was a class act on McDaniel’s part. His team had run roughshod over the Broncos again and again and again.
Though a record was in reach, a satisfying bookend to the team’s perfect season in 1972 — both records have eluded even Tom Brady’s New England Patriots. — McDaniel’s elegant restraint showed a large measure of respect for the long-deflated opponents.
Nevertheless, McDaniel’s decision was a hot topic on Monday-morning sports radio, where McDaniel’s taking a knee instead of telling his team to attempt a historic three-point kick was more seismic.
A new view
No doubt, McDaniel’s fresh attitude presents an interesting social outlook and begs the question: Have we been overvaluing awards and records like this one? Are such pursuits not that big a deal anymore? Does the winning-at-any cost mentality die off with the Boomer generation?
The answer may be yes.
We know the NFL has been struggling to attract a younger crowd that seems more interested in video games than slamming bodies. The NFL has become kinder and gentler to appease different generational sensibilities.
McDaniel’s decision not to go for the history may say something about our society decreasing need for victories and more about quality of life
And McDaniel, who just turned 40, may become a new age sports leader by his decision to either not further embarrass an opponent already reeling or by just deciding that a sports record ain’t no big thing.
For those who did not watch the game, here’s what happened in the last few minutes of one of the most stunning games the Dolphins have ever played.
With less than one minute remaining, the Dolphins offense was at the Broncos’ 27-yard line with the opportunity to increase its total points scored in a game to a jaw-dropping 73.
But Mike White, the Dolphins’ backup quarterback, remained on the field for a fourth down, taking a knee that turned the ball over to the Broncos on downs and kept the Dolphins at 70, two points behind a 72-point outing from Washington’s franchise in 1966.
The decision baffled even network sports announcers and got boos from the remaining fans at Hard Rock. After the game, McDaniel explained:
“I think that’s awesome for a regular-season record. You can have that and suffer the same fate as we had last year,” he said. “I don’t care about that regular-season record. It would have been cool, but what we’re trying to do, I think that would be talking out of both sides of my mouth if we tried to send the field goal team on and squeeze in an extra three.
“It’s not really what I’m about.”
Record within reach
It is known by gentlemen of football that one does not run up points when one is overpowering an opponent.
That’s why McDaniel stopped.
Plus, maybe he didn’t want to risk injury to players by continuing to attack in a blowout win. However, we know that opportunities to etch your team in the record books only come one in a blue moon.
McDaniel had the chance to forever link this young, dynamic Dolphins squad with one of the greatest offensive explosions in league annals. But he didn’t.
Going for the record could have further boosted this team’s confidence as they seek to prove themselves as AFC contenders. But he didn’t.
Back in 2002, then Washington Redskins head coach Steve Spurrier was criticized for running up the score against the San Francisco 49ers at the American Bowl in Japan; he shrugged it off. The Redskins won 38-7.
When asked why he kept playing, Spurrier, known for transforming the University of Florida Gators into a powerhouse, said: “That’s the way we play.” Many understood, but that was a different time.
McDaniel is still building his resume as an NFL head coach. He is an intriguing case study who appears to connect with the players as their defender, not their boss. That’s not a bad thing.
It displays a touch of class.